A climate change poem for today: The Rhinoceros by Robert Minhinnick

Published in The Guardian on 28th May 2015, The Rhinoceros by Robert Minhinnick

UK poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy curates a series of 20 original poems by various authors on the theme of climate change

On the Steel Beach


Look at these.
Thaw sweat.
Smoke on the swale.
Swarf off a swollen sea.


These. World famous
footprints at low water. Nine
thousand years old, they say, but who’s
counting. Not me.
Yet maybe I am.


A small man. Or woman. Outcast
or outlaw, hunter, flintknapper, cook.
All of these.
Yes, a woman, pregnant once again,
and coming home through the red mud.


Or maybe she was dancing.
Yes, a woman, I guess,
who loved to dance
and paint her eyes with kohl and ochre
and squat to squint at herself
in some rock pool and ask
“what are you?”


At night before she slept
she would breathe her harsh
hashish and tell her story behind the flames
about the brine-bright animals
she had scratched into the sand:
her wolf,
her bear,
her rhinoceros.

Yes, an armoured rhino
like the torrent poured golden
and smoking from the blast furnace ladle,
a rhino where the glacier will be

and coming out of the sun,
a rhino she will picture
with her goatwillowstick
on the last morning she will wake.